In New Jersey, any child born while both parents are married or within 300 days following a divorce or the death of a husband is legally presumed to be the child of the mother’s husband. When a child is conceived out of wedlock or beyond the 300-day timeframe, paternity is established either voluntarily or by a paternity action in court.
Establishing paternity voluntarily
To establish paternity voluntarily, both parents must sign a Certificate of Parentage (also known as a “Voluntary Acknowledgement”) through the Paternity Opportunity Program (POP). A Certificate of Parentage (COP) can be completed at the hospital following the birth, at your local Registrar, or at your local County Welfare Agency. After the certificate is filed with the state Registrar, the father becomes responsible for child support and his name can be added to the child’s birth certificate.
Establishing paternity by court order
If there is a disagreement or uncertainty about the paternity of a child, then a legal action can be filed in New Jersey Superior Court. This action can be brought by the child’s mother, the man who believes he is the child’s father, the child, a guardian or legal representative of the child, or a county welfare agency if the child is receiving state assistance. The court may require genetic testing if there is uncertainty about who fathered the child or if an alleged father denies paternity. If the alleged father refuses genetic testing, the court may consider the refusal as evidence of paternity.
Legal presumption of paternity
New Jersey allows for certain legal presumptions about paternity to apply if it has not been legally established. This may apply if:
- The parents get married within 300 days of the child’s birth.
- The parents get married after the child is born and sign a COP; the husband also has his name added to the birth certificate, tells others he is the child’s biological father and agrees to pay child support.
- A father not married to the mother of the child tells people he is the biological father and provides financial support for the child.
- A child is born during a marriage but the husband is not the biological father. The biological father and mother must sign a COP and the husband and mother must sign a Denial of Parentage form that says the husband is not the biological father. Both forms must be filed with the state Registrar.
- A child is created via artificial insemination to a married couple where the husband consents to the procedure and the procedure is performed with the supervision of a licensed physician.
Establishing paternity is important for both parents to establish a bond with the child and provide him or her with certain legal rights, including child support, inheritance rights, and the rights to certain government benefits. We know that family law issues are often difficult, life-changing events. We also know how much it helps to have knowledgeable legal advocates on your side to help you obtain the best possible outcome. Contact us today for your free consultation.